DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Wild speculations about the coronavirus are not limited to the media. Two Catholic leaders are jumping on the bandwagon and using the global health crisis to spread leftist ideas.
In a recent televised Mass, Cdl. Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka blamed researchers in wealthy countries for the pandemic. He told his audience, "We know that in several areas of the world researchers of all types for various reasons are engaging in research to destroy human life and nature. Some of these viruses are the products of aimless experiments."
And who are these evil researchers? "This kind of research is done not by people in poor countries but in laboratories in rich countries," Ranjith postulated.
While the idea that a deadly virus could have escaped from a "rich country's" lab isn't entirely implausible, the virus was determined by health officials to have come from a single superpower — China — whose wealth is concentrated in the hands of the Communist Party.
There have been some attempts to deny China's responsibility, but the Asian giant is widely recognized as the source of COVID-19. Reporting in The Atlantic, Shadi Hamid writes, "The evidence of China's deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record."
Cardinal Ranjith went on to say, "Producing such things [the coronavirus] is a very serious crime for mankind ... I ask the Lord to reveal who made these poisonous seeds ... and punish them. Such research should be banned."
Yet painting researchers — even Chinese researchers — as responsible for the virus, cannot be substantiated.
The origin of the virus is Wuhan, China, but cannot be further isolated to an experimental laboratory. As a matter of fact, the first theories were that the virus originated in a Wuhan "wet market." National Public Radio reported in January that: "A 'wet market' in Wuhan, China has been linked to the coronavirus outbreak."
As recently as this week, a National Review headline said: "The Chinese Wild-Animal Industry and Wet Markets Must Go."
Critics wonder why Cdl. Ranjith wants to focus his criticism and calls for punishment on "researchers" and "rich countries."
On the other side of the globe, 81-year-old Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, an early and active promoter of liberation theology, wrote that it is no coincidence that various pandemic diseases, including the coronavirus, along with "generalized degradation in human relationships, marked by profound inequality/social injustice [sic] and the lack of a minimum of solidarity, are a reprisal of Gaia for the offenses that we continuously inflict on her."
"Gaia" is a "Mother Earth" reference appropriated from Greek mythology into late 1970s, New Age-thinking. More recently, neo-pagans view the earth (Gaia) as a distinct organism with "self-regulatory functions."
Boff's invocation of Gaia's wrath in connection with the coronavirus fails faithful Catholics by assuming the earth is "a goddess" somehow being violated ecologically, and the virus is this deity's retribution.
For both of these Catholic thought leaders, the global health crisis — regardless of its remote connection — becomes an opportunity to talk about politics and economic injustices.